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Dr. Christopher G. Wood, Chairman of the Kidney Cancer Association’s Board of Directors, died on November 3. Beyond the important role he played in championing the kidney cancer community, Dr. Wood was our dear friend, colleague, mentor, and leader. He will be greatly missed.

In Memoriam: Urology Professor Christopher Wood

Courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center

Christopher Wood, M.D., Urology professor, passed away Nov. 3. He is remembered by his colleagues [at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas] as a surgeon with unwavering standards, a selfless mentor with boundless generosity, and, above all, a friend. He walked slowly, never in a hurry. He wasn’t shy, but spoke seldom, saving his words for when it mattered. And he brought a sense of fun and ease to almost every interaction.

“He was indescribably massive in every way: Intellect, personality, humor, skill, care and generosity,” says Neema Navai, M.D., Urology associate professor. “I hope for all of us it doesn’t take too many generations to see his equal again, but my heart tells me we never will.”

A dedicated clinician and researcher

In his more than 25 years at MD Anderson, Wood made innumerable contributions to the field of kidney cancer surgery and research. He was world renowned for his research around renal cell carcinoma. Outside of MD Anderson, he served as chair of the Kidney Cancer Association (KCA).

In an interview with KCA he once said, “I truly love helping people and there can be no greater gift to them than curing them of their cancer or making a positive impact on their outcome. I have the best job in the world.”

But it was a field he never intended to work in. Wood first came to MD Anderson as a fellow in 1995 and joined the faculty in 1998 with a dual appointment as an assistant professor in Urology and Cancer Biology. He told KCA he was originally hired to be the “prostate guy,” but at the time, the Urology department included only seven faculty, compared to 18 today. No one specialized in kidney cancer and many of those surgeries fell to him. He quickly discovered he loved treating the disease and eventually switched his research focus to match.

“Once Chris made up his mind to do something, nothing less than success was acceptable,” says Marshall Hicks, M.D., division head of Diagnostic Imaging.

As “the new kid,” Wood worked diligently, operating four days a week and spending Saturdays in his office writing protocols and catching up on administrative work. Even as a young faculty member, he was often asked by referring physicians to remove large tumors after other surgeons had tried and failed. Over the years, he focused on efficiency in the OR and helped expand kidney surgery services at MD Anderson. He was appointed deputy chair in 2008 and promoted to professor in 2010.

“Chris was an absolute force in the OR,” Navai says. “He could do things in 40 minutes that other surgeons needed three hours to complete, and he did it better than they ever could.” 

He was known for playing heavy metal music and speaking his mind in the operating room. He never wavered in his direct approach but always remained kind.

“Chris leaves a legacy of master surgical skills that has changed where the bar is for the rest of us,” says John Davis, M.D., Urology professor.

A legacy focused on education

Wood harbored a passion for education and served as the departmental CME course chair, ran the urology agenda for a Surgery CME event and also hosted a conference for patients through the KCA.

“He had famous ways of getting good content out of the panelists – a mix of being serious and humorous,” Davis says. “He loved conference debates – preferably contentious and entertaining with figurative blood on the floor at the end.”

Wood was focused on faculty development. He had a steady pipeline of fellows known as “Wood fellows” who did basic lab research and contributed to high impact papers. He was dedicated to their development. often making personal sacrifices to bring them new opportunities.

“If I could describe him in two words, it’s unconditional generosity,” says Jose Karam, M.D., Urology associate professor and former fellow drawn to MD Anderson by Wood. “He never asked for anything in return.”

He remembered Wood often told them, “Your success is my success.”

“One of the things I admire most about him was his ability to put his own ego aside and elevate others around him,” says Brian Chapin, M.D., a Urology associate professor and former “Wood fellow.” “He was my mentor, my friend, my brother and, occasionally, my parent.”

A lasting impact

Outside of MD Anderson, Wood loved to travel, particularly to the Middle East or to Colorado when he stayed stateside. He loved to ski in the winter and play golf in the spring and summer. He was a Houston Texans season ticket holder for 20 years.

“He worked hard and played hard. Everything he did, he did full tilt,” Hicks says.

He was a loving husband to his wife Colleen and a dedicated father and friend to his children Chris Jr. and Sarah. For Wood, there was no division between his life in and outside of work. He welcomed many colleagues into his family and many of them grew close over the years. Carol Fourtunia, an administrative coordinator who worked with Wood for more than 20 years, says she considers the Woods her extended family.

“He was kind, so generous and I never knew him to say no to anything,” says Fourtunia. “He always wanted to help everyone.” 

It wasn’t hard to see Wood’s impact in the days following his death. Many patients, societies and organizations from across the world reached out or released statements offering their condolences.

“The tremendous support and sympathy that we have received from individuals worldwide provided comfort and the reminder of the impact that Chris has had on the lives of so many,” says Colin Dinney, M.D., Urology chair. “At the same time, it also tells how much the world will miss him.”

The Kidney Cancer Association was founded in 1990 by Eugene P. Schonfeld and a small group of patients and doctors in Chicago, Illinois and has grown into an international non-profit organization. The KCA promotes scientific advances through two annual research symposiums and a robust grant program, participates in legislative advocacy, and seeks to be a source of education and resources for patients, caregivers, and anyone impacted by kidney cancer. 

Our vision is to be the universal leader in finding the cure for kidney cancer. 

Our mission is to be a global community dedicated to serving and empowering patients and caregivers, and leading change through advocacy, research, and education.

View our “About Us” brochure.


Gretchen E. Vaughan

President & CEO

Houston, Texas


Kendall Monroe

Chief Advancement Officer

Houston, Texas

Susan Alanis

Director of Gift Processing

Houston, Texas

LaRanda Burke

Director of Finance

Houston, Texas

Radha Chitale

Director of Communications

Washington, D.C.

Rosemary Chustak

Patient Liaison

St. Louis, Missouri

Christine Kelly-Weaver

Executive Assistant

Houston, Texas

Melissa Lopez

Gift Operations Associate

Houston, Texas

Sallie McAdoo

Medical Director

Houston, Texas

Emely Rodriguez


Houston, Texas

Ashley Ruggieri

Director of Patient Advocacy and Partnerships

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Stephanie Shirley

Director of Advancement Services

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Jeanette Stensgaard 

Director of Conferences and Events

Aurora, Colorado

Jennifer Vitek

Director of Conferences and Events

Denver, Colorado

Angela Washington

Director of Operations

Houston, Texas

Board of Directors

Lisa Alderson

Co-Founder and CEO, Genome Medical, Inc.

San Francisco, California

Ronald M. Bukowski, MD

Bukowski Consulting LLC

Cleveland, Ohio

Noah Buntman (Treasurer)

Manager, Product Operations, Apple, Inc

Excelsior, Minnesota

Tessa Churchill, MD, MBA

Resident Physician, Anesthesiology,
Northwestern Medicine

Chicago, Illinois

Craig DePriester

Vice President of Clinic Operations, Optum Care

Los Angeles, California

Daniel J. George, MD

Duke Cancer Institute

Durham, North Carolina

Jamie Graves (Secretary)

Director, State and Local Affairs, BP America

Chicago, Illinois

Bradley Leibovich, MD, FACS

Department of Urology, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

Rochester, Minnesota

Ryan Natzke

Chief External Affairs Officer, Marshfield Clinic Health System

Madison, Wisconsin

Eric Perakslis

Rubenstein Fellow, Duke University

Hingham, Massachusetts

David Perry, Esq.

Retired, formerly a partner of K&L Gates LLP

Irvine, California

Shelley Robson

Senior Director of Trusts, Estates and Gift Planning, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Gretchen E. Vaughan

President and Chief Executive Officer, Kidney Cancer Association

Houston, Texas

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD

Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada 

Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS (Chair)

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Laura Wood, RN, MSN, OCN

Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center

Cleveland, Ohio

Ruben Ybarra

Installation Lead/Project Engineer, Poseidon Services Inc.

Houston, Texas

Medical Steering Committee

Laurence Albiges, MD, PhD

Institut Gustave-Roussy

Paris, France

Axel Bex, MD, PhD

The Netherlands Cancer Institute

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ronald M. Bukowski, MD (Emeritus)

Emeritus Staff, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center

Cleveland, Ohio

James Hsieh, MD, PhD

Siteman Cancer Center

Saint Louis, Missouri

Jose Karam, MD, FACS

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Chung-Han Lee, MD, PhD

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New York, New York

Bradley C. Leibovich, MD

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

Rochester, Minnesota

Pavlos Msaouel, MD, PhD

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Sumanta Pal, MD

City of Hope

Duarte, California

W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Nashville, Tennessee

Brian Rini, MD (Vice-Chair)

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Nashville, Tennessee

Walter M. Stadler, MD, FACP (Emeritus)

University of Chicago Medical Center

Chicago, Illinois

Nizar M. Tannir, MD, FACP (Emeritus)

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Daniel J. George, MD (Chair)

Duke Cancer Institute

Durham, North Carolina

Tian Zhang, MD

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Dallas, Texas

*The Medical Steering Committee provides strategic guidance to KCA in the planning of its medical education activities as well as supervision of the content of its patient education programs and literature. This committee is also charged with responsibility for selection of members of the planning committees for all medical symposiums sponsored by KCA.

Clinical Advisory Board

Nancy Ainslie, RN, BSN

Retired, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Julia Batten, APRN, MSN, MPH

Huntsman Cancer Institute

Salt Lake City, Utah

Nina Decker, MSW, LCSW

Cedars Sinai Medical Center

Los Angeles, California

Patricia Fischer RN, MSN, OCN

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

New York, New York

Jan Jackson, RN

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Kiran Kehoe, RN, BSN, CCRN

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New York, New York

Zita Lim, PA-C

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Nancy Moldawer, RN, MSN (Co-Chair)

Cedars Sinai Medical Center

Los Angeles, California

Kathryn Nelson, RN

Mayo Clinic

Rochester, Minnesota

Virginia J. Seery, MSN, RN, ANP-BC

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Boston, Massachusetts

Meghara Walsh, RN, BSN

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Boston, Massachusetts

Laura S. Wood, RN, MSN, OCN (Chair)

Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center

Cleveland, Ohio

*Mission: The Clinical Advisory Board provides patients and caregivers in all stages of their illness accurate information in a manner that supports multiple learning modalities including written, audio, and visual.

Patient & Caregiver Advisory Council

Kathleen Campbell

Mineral, Virginia

Steven Edwards

New York, New York

John Ferrell

Houston, Texas

Bruce Hill

Hudson Valley, New York

Susan Hill

Hudson Valley, New York

Vineeta Hiranandani

San Francisco, California

Ritchie Johnson

Houston, Texas

Benjamin Lundin

Granby, Connecticut

Deb Maskens

Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Ryan Natzke (Chair)

Madison, Wisconsin

Marissa Willis

Blue Springs, Missouri

Salima Witt

San Diego, California

Peggy Zuckerman

Long Beach, California

*Mission: The Patient & Caregiver Advisory Council serves as the voice of the patient and provides the vital link between the patient community and the Kidney Cancer Association.

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The Kidney Cancer Association is a global community dedicated to serving and empowering patients, and leading change through advocacy, research, and education in order to be the universal leader in finding the cure for kidney cancer. Please contact us to learn more about kidney cancer or to get involved with our mission.

Mailing Address
Kidney Cancer Association
9450 SW Gemini Drive #38269
Beaverton, OR 97008-7105

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Kidney Cancer Association
2777 Allen Parkway Suite 424
Houston, TX 77019

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Kidney Cancer Association
PO Box 676226
Dallas, TX 75267-6226

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